CHICAGO – “You don't measure performance just by horsepower," insists Russ Clark, General Motors global marketing director- Chevrolet Corvette and Camaro, when asked about Ford’s bragging rights for its Mustang that produces 650 hp, while the Camaro LT1 develops 580 hp and the Corvette ZR1 638 hp.

"You also measure performance by ride and handling and how it turns right and left in exiting corners and how quick it is on the straights,” says Clark in an interview at the auto show here.

But he also admits such things as horsepower numbers can have a positive influence on auto makers. "If they make you do better, so be it."

While Chevy sells the Spark and Sonic small cars and the Volt extended-range electric vehicle, all devoted to fuel efficiency, Clark argues his performance models deserve credit rather than criticism for their perceived fuel consumption.

"The growth area is small cars,” he says. “But I have a 426-hp Corvette getting 28 mpg (8.4 L/100 km) on the highway and a 323-hp Camaro getting 30 mpg (7.8 L/100 km) on the highway.

“We still build performance cars because there are some people who have gas in their veins, and love cars and love driving them."

Lexus has a concept LF-LC sports car at the show that employs batteries to power motors on the front wheels to convert the rear drive car into an all-wheel-drive model.

"Technology like that is under investigation," Clark says. "But it is expensive, and if you see it, you'd see it on our high-end Corvette. While all technology is feasible, you have to determine if that's the right approach to take. When it comes to Corvette, all I'll say is stay tuned, more to come."